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01

Feb

Super Bowl XLVIII: 5 Steps for Making Sustainability Cross to the Mainstream

Over the past weeks, the nation has been in a deep freeze and speculation has surrounded whether or not the Super Bowl XLVIII would be upstaged by the polar vortex. According to the National Weather Service, the game is now expecting a high of 29 degrees in the evening with zero chance of precipitation. With Super Bowl Sunday coinciding for the first time with Groundhog Day, climate is no longer a ‘tree hugger’ topic as weather conditions continue to force it into the mainstream.

For years, the NFL Environmental Program and the host cities community partners like the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee have been hosting community events as part of a larger environmental movement around green games, green stadiums and the wiser use of resources. Events connect people and communities, and through this bond neighborhoods build awareness for boosting their sustainability efforts. These events included the Super Community Coat Drive, e-waste recycling in Times Square, 61 sustainability measures at MetLife Stadium and stewardship projects that added 27,000 trees and shrubs to the city.

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Credit: Green Restaurant Association

Engaging the local community is a great step for creating a ‘new normal’ where citizens become part of the solution in building toward a sustainable future. If you are thinking of incorporating green behaviors in your community or organization, here is a simple guide to making it a success:

Step 1: Make a Commitment and be a Game Changer.

Just like publicizing your New Year’s resolutions, making a commitment public is a great way to stick to your plan. As colleges and national sports organizations continue to compete to be the greenest and establish green teams to implement sustainability policies, these steps become real when the campus or community is aware and participating.

Step 2: Do a Needs Assessment.

Prior to taking steps for change, it is wise to assess what is needed and to determine a baseline or benchmark to identify opportunities for improvement and savings. A good example is the amount of electricity consumed by an NFL football stadium and the potential to offset this by adding LED light fixtures and 1,350 solar PV panels.

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 MetLife Stadium, Credit: NRG, Energy Inc.

Step 3: Set Goals.

In an effort to bring awareness to reuse in communities, Tradepal, set a dual goal, this year, to implement its technology in 100 campuses nationwide and save 20,000 metric tons of carbon by June 2014. This is part of a larger effort focusing on our carbon footprints by quantifying the impact of reuse and offering communities a cost-effective carbon reduction initiative.  

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Step 4: Create an Action Plan.

Once the goals are established, clearly define the steps and establish the respective roles of members. Preparing best practices will help boost everyone’s efforts. Once everyone is onboard, the plan is communicated and goals are set, it is time to incentivize and encourage others to be part of the solution. A tracking system with metrics is beneficial to track and monitor progress.

Step 5: Evaluate Progress and Recognize Achievements.

Measuring the results and reviewing the action plan will help to evaluate whether any adjustments are needed in order to reach the goal. This may include adding more partners to keep the momentum up. Creating awareness for excellence by  publicizing the achievements of partners and recognizing the efforts of individuals is also important.

Collectively the many organizations, partners and teams have taken effective steps toward reducing their carbon emissions and that of the host cities and area communities this Super Bowl. Through community events and lessons from the sports industry, neighborhoods can experience first-hand the benefits of building a cultural shift toward environmental awareness.

No matter which team wins Super Bowl XLVIII, both the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks have made great strides in raising the bar on sustainability.

See Also: 

Food Labeling: Confuse and Conquer

To Change the World, Start by Making Your Bed

Sustainability vs. Storage Wars Epidem

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11

Jan

What is Your Impact from Reuse?

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by Tamar Burton

When I reflect on the past year of traveling through communities dotted with farms and cities sprawling with shops and attractions, I am reminded of the impact we have on our planet. The weekly accumulation of recycling for the weekly pick up always catches my attention as I view all the waste on the curb. While I find some relief knowing communities are recycling, so many opportunities to do more to reuse and reduce are ignored.  

In the new year, I vow to continue to find ways to reduce my carbon footprint and share these experiences with others. If we take a minute to make small changes, we could have a big impact on a daily basis. Simple changes to our daily routines, such as replacing plastic bags and styrofoam cups with a personal carry all or refillable bottle, have a huge impact. Another easy target is the stockpile of unused items hidden away in our garages or self-storage facilities. The new year offers the perfect opportunity to take an active stance to make a change. By simply compiling the unused or outgrown items in our closets down to a pile of items to reuse via swap and giveaway provides both financial and emotional rewards. I vividly remember friends and family members who happily received items and the sense of satisfaction that followed from removing clutter while offering a great gift. 

What if you could quantify the environmental impact from the pile of items? The diagram below is the carbon savings derived from selling my bedroom set, my couch, various furnishings and giving away clothing, electronics and household items on Tradepal. With each listing, I am shown the carbon savings derived from each item by choosing to promote reuse — and not landfills. The CO2 calculator helps users to quantify their CO2 footprint savings directly with every barter, giveaway, buy or sell on Tradepal. And with each transaction, the individual carbon savings score quickly accumulates into an even bigger number with a greater impact by promoting reuse.

According to the EPA, my overall carbon savings is the equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 2.8 acres of a forest in one year, or the carbon emissions from consuming 387 gallons of gasoline. An individual impact of 3.5 metric tons is really powerful, but think of the combined impact of a residence hall, a campus or a college town that fully adopts reuse. 

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Source: EPA 

See also:

Just TRADE It!

Super Bowl XLVIII: 5 Steps for Making Sustainability Cross to the Mainstream

To Change the World Start by Making Your Bed

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29

Dec

Happy New Year 2014 

In the coming year -

“May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And the rain fall soft upon your fields …”


Irish Blessings

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Zhu Jinshi, Boat, 2012, Xuan paper, bamboo and cotton thread. Rubell Family Collection

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30

Nov

The Evolution of Black Friday

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05

Nov

Making Reuse Convenient

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Incubating Consumer Behavior Change By Making Student Reuse On Campus Convenient 

by Tamar Burton

The lesson of The Three R’s - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle helped us shape our view of the environment. Building sustainable communities is an important challenge faced by millennials and requires innovation to enact consumer behavior change. America’s college students have embraced new solutions pertaining to reducing and recycling, but the area that hasn’t been addressed properly is reuse.

According to research by the NPD Group, the average U.S. household has over $7,000 worth of unused merchandise ranging from electronics and furniture; to textbooks and sporting goods. Overall, this excess merchandise accounts for $1 trillion worth of idle surplus. Think about reuse, everybody does it, right? Typically, the response given is: yes, I promote reuse on these websites. But, probe further and inquire when they last engaged reuse, and the response is a surprisingly dated: a year ago, two years ago, or I don’t recall. Clearly, reuse is not an adopted behavior although subconsciously it is. 

Tradepal’s one-click technology seeks to remedy this by making reuse easy and convenient. The platform simplifies the reuse process to enable users to list items in seconds, broadcast their virtual sale to their campus and friends, and seamlessly buy, sell and barter with peers. It also gamifies reuse as students are able to quantify their environmental impact through a dedicated carbon savings calculator.

Tradepal has recognized the problem with stuff and set its mission to make reuse as easy as recycling. Several colleges and universities have embraced the initiative to offer a convenient way for students to promote reuse by launching a campus reuse network on Tradepal. Tradepal made a commitment to action with CGI America to deploy its reuse platform to 100 college campuses and derive 20,000 metric tons of carbon savings from reuse by June 2014. 

Millennials hold the key to a sustainable and resilient future. By integrating innovation on campus, higher education provides students with opportunities to experiment and determine the best methods for introducing sustainable solutions. These experiences will prove pivotal in scaling consumer behavior change beyond college campuses and into the mainstream.

See also:

The Forgotten R of the Environment

Sustainability vs Storage Wars Epidemic

Climate Policy: Transitioning Behavior Change

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23

Oct

Happy Campus Sustainability Day

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01

Oct

Transitioning from More to Better

Source: Story of Stuff Project

(Source: tradepal)

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26

Sep

The Invisible Cost of Carbon

"We are paying the price, the cost of carbon, but our economic system, our market system does not contain a price on carbon pollution. So it is effectively invisible in our economic calculations.  It is an externality." - Al Gore

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13

Sep

Millennials and the Student Debt Drag

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A recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York  (FRBY) study suggests that millennials are retreating from big ticket purchases. After examining the trends, the study found that student debt reduces other types of borrowing such as mortgages and auto loans. After taking a closer look at the student debt numbers, it appears that the buying power of millennials has been significantly impaired. The majority of students are now graduating college with a negative net worth. This purchasing behavior shift could also be a symptom of the ongoing decline in disposable income growth.

The following statistics from FRBNY frame the issue students are facing:

  • student debt has increased from $260 billion in 2004 to $1.2 trillion in 2013

  • an estimated 37 million Americans have outstanding student loans

  • the average student debt upon graduation has increased from $9,000 in 2004 to $30,000 in 2013

Matt Taibbi’s article Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal, in the August 2013 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, sheds light on the hardships facing college graduates as education costs are spiraling out of control.  

It is worth noting that seven million of those 37 million borrowers are currently in default. The outstanding student debt now dwarfs both outstanding auto loans ($800 billion) and credit card debt ($700 billion). As student debt levels have quintupled over the last decade, it is fair to assume that it’s having a significant impact on the U.S. economy and the way millennials will consume in the future. The real question is whether this is a permanent or a temporary shift in consumer behavior?

See Also: 

Engaging Consumers to Create a Circular Economy

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

Food Labeling: Confuse and Conquer

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27

Aug

Consumption and the Growing Importance of Shared Value

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By Tamar Burton

Over the past decade, brands have made a shift to balance profitability goals with having a mindful purpose. A study by the University of Iowa found a direct correlation exists between brands with extensive corporate social responsibility and lower stock risk during down economic cycles. This brand loyalty is particularly found with brands that support environmental issues.

As millennials account for the over 95 million digitally connected Americans, they also possess a keen desire or ‘socially conscious’ to make a difference. Recently a growing number of studies have reported on the strong desire of millennials to embrace brands that support a cause they hold dear. Some studies have even labeled millennials the most aspirational generation.

A recent Nielsen survey found that 42% of 18- to 34-year-old millennials believe a response following a posting a complaint or comment regarding a brand should be received on social media within 12 hours. While millennials may not have the cash flow of older customers, brands have realized the possible consequences a negative comment could have on their brand image and sales and have taken greater steps to please millennials and to intercept their complaints prior to becoming viral.

This new shift in conscience capitalism is evident not only in what we purchase, but also how we cater to our customers. As is evident by the U.S. auto industry bailout in 2008 as GM, Chrysler and Ford were trying to avoid financial disaster. Feeling the effects of the financial collapse and burdened by gasoline prices hovering near $4 a gallon, consumers were ready for new solutions. Yet these industry giants lacked innovation and failed to listen to their customers as they continued on the path of business as usual.

During this time, Elon Musk, TESLA Motors CEO and Chairman, was on a mission to replace fossil fuels by changing the world by offering clean and renewable energy sources and reintroducing the electric vehicle. The EV1, sold during the late -1990’s to 2002 was not as fortunate as evidenced in the 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?. When you contemplate the fact that more solar energy strikes the surface of the earth in a single hour than is provided by all the fossil energy consumed globally in a year, then the answer seems obvious. Now fast forward from the 1990’s and in a little over a decade, innovation may win this time around, and older brands may start offering the solutions that consumers are demanding rather than remaining on a path of resistance.

Public relations firm, Edelman conducted a global survey in 2012 and found that 72% of consumers responded they would recommend brands to others if they supported a good cause. Given this strong statistic, marketers should be keen to ignite corporations to evolve the various ways they envision, produce and market their products. The main selling point being, if they don’t, they will fall by the wayside.

See also:

The Real World Impact of Climate Change

Would You Like Bottled or Tap?

Sustainability vs. Storage Wars Epidemic

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23

Jul

The Global Knowledge Economy: An increasingly competitive landscape

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By Tamar Burton

A new shift is occurring as universities around the world have set their sights on attracting students from abroad. In a quest to cultivate knowledge-based economies, governments around the world are making huge investments to improve the quality of their universities. The new bar is academic excellence. In the new global economy, to be considered well-educated, one must be exposed to ideas and people and transcend national boundaries. Human capital is being cultivated as global universities compete for the best and brightest. According to the NAFSA: Association of International Educations, it is estimated that international student enrollments contributed $21.81 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2011-2012 academic year.

Global Educational Forecast by 2025:

50% - almost all of this rapid growth will occur in the developing countries, with more than 50% in India and China alone.

350,000 students - the combined capacity to attract international higher education to foreigners in this decade by traditional source countries, with Jordan and Malaysia each hoping to attract 100,000 each by 2020 and Singapore, hoping for 150,000 by the year 2015

8 million - the projected number of students to travel to other countries to study abroad by 2025 - almost 3 times today’s numbers.

262 million students - the projected number of students seeking global enrollment in higher education by 2025 

“Something big is happening…Making the most of human capital—a key to competitiveness and prosperity—is more and more the work of globalized universities competing for the best thinkers and the best ideas.”

- The Wall Street Journal, May 2010 

See Also:

Sustainability vs. Storage Wars Epidemic

Making Reuse Convenient

What is Your Impact from Reuse?

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13

Jun

Tradepal Announces New Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Make ReUse Convenient for College Students

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This morning from the CGIAmerica in Chicago, Tradepal announced it is committed to implementing its student to student ReUse marketplace technology for 100 colleges across the U.S. The goal is to make ReUse convenient for college students and encourage a more sustainable consumer behavior. These networks are expected to save 20,000 metric tons of carbon emissions by June 2014. The environmental benefit resulting from this commitment is equivalent to removing 15,000 passenger cars from circulation. 

“Today’s announcement builds on President Bill Clinton’s decades of leadership in strengthening America’s economy and communities,” said Karim Guessous, founder and CEO of Tradepal. “We are excited to provide and scale an actionable market-based solution to further America’s sustainability goals.” 

College students are constantly looking for ways to save or make money by reusing textbooks, electronics, furniture, sports equipment, among others. They are frustrated with the existing fragmented marketplaces, the lack of trust, the amount of time it takes to list an item, to complete a transaction, payments and shipping.

Tradepal’s technology platform allows both buyers and sellers to meet their needs on campus. It offers a far more compelling value proposition than existing marketplaces or classifieds sites for the following reasons:

  • It is a trusted social network: students use their real identity
  • It takes no more than 30 seconds to list an item
  • Students buy and sell, but can also barter, leveraging their listings as currency
  •  It gamifies sustainability by quantifying the environmental impact or ReUse in terms of carbon savings

At the third annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGIAmerica) gathering held on June 13-14 in Chicago, Tradepal will join over 1,000 high-level participants including leaders from government, business, foundations and NGO’s to develop innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.The mission of the CGI is to turn ideas into action, and Tradepal founder and CEO, Karim Guessous, will discuss how Tradepal’s Commitment to Action could be scaled further at the Breakout Session: “Scalable Ideas: Commitments with Growth Potential” on Friday, June 14 at 11:15 A.M. CST. 

See Also:

Sustainability vs. Storage Wars Epidemic

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

Tradepal Announces New Clinton Global Initiative to Make Reuse Convenient for College Students

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11

Jun

Can the Sharing Economy Cross to the Mainstream?

Following years of consumerism, technology has offered new interpretations of ownership. Competitive services touting the benefits of “sharing” and “access over ownership” have gained ground as viable alternatives. Consumers have revisited past generations’ routines of sharing, swapping, lending, and bartering. Businesses are allowing access to both tangible items and less tangible assets of space and skills. Sharing services are progressively gaining traction in densely populated areas. However, the question remains as to whether they can cross to the mainstream and gain massive adoption?

Enacting consumer behavior change is a challenging endeavor. In a recent review of consumer behavior change, psychologists Wendy Wood and David Neal suggest that consumers often “act like creatures of habit, automatically repeating past behavior with little regard to current goals and valued outcomes.”

In contrast to ownership, the sharing economy while founded on the concepts of community and sharing, attempts to find value through financial savings for consumers. Like the sharing economy, sustainability initiatives are focused on advancing social equity. Both sustainability and the sharing economy minimize waste, optimize the allocation of resources and reduce carbon emissions with communities. When considering their adoption, however, it seems to come down to the intent and behavior of the individual.

Recent findings suggest that pro-environmental campaigns emphasizing financial savings (self-interested) over protecting the environment (self-transcending) have generally been ineffective. Although advocates promoted financial benefits in order to accelerate adoption of eco-friendly behaviors (i.e., saving energy results in lower bills), researchers Thogersen and Crompton found that financial incentives may make people less likely to carry out environmental actions in general. Self-interested values, such as economic welfare, wealth and power were found to be in conflict with the self-transcending values of protecting the environment.

Another study, conducted by researchers Fowler and Christakis, reveals that acts of kindness and generosity travel in social networks up to three degrees of separation. They believe that “cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks” and that “there is a deep and fundamental connection between social networks and goodness.” They added that “groups with altruists in them will be more likely to survive than selfish groups.”

The resounding message of the sharing economy is that it fosters relationships and builds communities. So far, it has focused primarily on the self-interested values of saving money and making money from the idle resources in order to appeal to consumers. The sharing economy should incorporate self-transcending values such as sustainability and goodness to its core message in order to achieve behavior change and cross to the mainstream. 

@karimguessous

See Also:

Engaging Consumers to Create a Circular Economy

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

Sustainability vs. Storage Wars Epidemic

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08

Jun

Millennials and Consumer Behavior Change

Various studies and articles have been published in an attempt to identify and label the attributes of the generation called Millennials also known as Generation Y. In TIME Magazine’s May cover story entitled, “The Me Me Me Generation”, they were characterized as lazy, narcissistic and possibly delusional. In contrast, The Atlantic depicted them, in “The Cheapest Generation”, as exhibiting a quirky eco-­consciousness that favors access over ownership.

According to car manufacturers FORD and General Motors, today’s youth don’t care about owning a car despite dealers’ efforts to generate sales. Earlier this week, Kelly Ripa announced on Live! with Kelly and Michael that her son Michael, who just turned 16 years old, was puzzled by family friends inquiring if he got a new car. Since WWII, spending on new cars and housing has historically enabled our economy to thrive. But according to recent reports the demand for drivers licenses by teenagers has significantly dropped. This generation is more interested in having owning a smartphone to stay connected, than the burden of a vehicle with ever increasing fuel costs. As millennials become increasingly car-averse, this shift offers the opportunity to introduce more sustainable options.

Millennials are the most environmentally engaged generation with about two-thirds in agreement that global warming is real and another 43% blame human activity for the extent of this growing problem. Given these traits in combination with their desire to reform our society they provide a pivotal role in helping the world face critical social and economic challenges.  

While Baby Boomers tend to choose a top down approach, millennials prefer community-based or grassroots engagement from the bottom up. The millennial generation is hyper-informed, and while some may exhibit an imbalance between their education level and actual field experience they are willing to create change and tackle the world’s problems. The Internet Age has primed millennials for activism as they are hyper-connected, civic-minded and socially engaged on forums and commenting platforms where they readily share and explore ideas.

Armed with fresh ideas and the technology to create an audience, this generation has adopted new tools, technology and crowdsourcing methods to generate awareness, advocates and funding. Through these innovative collaborations, transformative ideas will evolve to help solve tough global challenges. These so-called narcissistic traits may actually make possible the generational shifts to align the desires of consumers with the new systems and processes that must be developed for future generations to thrive.

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Image Source: bcg perspectives

By Tamar Burton

See Also:

The Next Industrial Revolution

Just TRADE It!

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected



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03

Jun

Engaging Communities to Adopt Sustainable Products

To effect a large scale change in favor of a more viable process sometimes requires a greater commitment. At last year’s annual Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, former President Clinton appealed to advertising industry executives to build a better world. He used his keynote speaking opportunity to invite brand makers to leverage their collective knowledge and use their big ideas to work on issues that make a difference for the future.

According to President Clinton,

“The communicators will have a profound influence on how the next 20 or 30 years will turn out.”

An example of such innovation is the transition to electric vehicles following decades of gasoline motors and rising fuel costs. In 2008, the Tesla Roadster launched its $100K vehicle in Palo Alto, years after the Prius achieved ‘green’ status. General Motors introduced the EV1 in 1996, over 17 years prior, but for various reasons it did not cross to the mainstream. The recent news about Tesla Motors offers hope for a zero-emissions future. But innovative ideas don’t spread fast, they require advocates to communicate support and offer knowledge to enact consumer acceptance and behavior change.

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Image source: benzinga.com

In 2011, while in Silicon Valley I noticed a Tesla charging bay in a parking garage. I had arrived at Santana Row, an upscale outdoor shopping complex with a Tesla showroom mixed in with the retail fashion stores. This being my first car showroom within a retail location, I took the opportunity to explore the sole vehicle and its design elements. This interactive experience enabled me to discover various features including the external carbon fiber panels, aluminum chassis and to simulate on a touchscreen how far I could travel in an electric Tesla and the cost associated. 

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Image Source: ipadinsight.com

In hindsight, this showroom example provided the realization of the fundamental importance of providing unique and intimate experiences to help innovation crossover to consumers. These new technologies require the exposure within communities in order to facilitate awareness and adoption and also to stimulate conversation. Through hands-on opportunities that open up the dialogue, brands can  stimulate consumers to enact change. As existing processes become inefficient it is ultimately our responsibility to reject outdated systems in favor of innovative alternatives. As technology advances, we must foster opportunities where communities can gather to build a sustainable and resilient future together.

By Tamar Burton

See Also: 

Climate Change: What is Real, Happening and Expected

Food Labeling: Confuse and Conquer

To Change the World, Start by Making Your Bed

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